Archives for August 2004

Back to School

Jon and I had to do some shopping this past Saturday, so we headed to the local mall. It was a rainy day, so there wasn’t much else to do. Unfortunately, everyone else had exactly the same idea.

You forget about back-to-school time. Of course we always bought new clothes and school supplies, but you forget how big of a deal it really is. It trumps all other holidays and events except for Christmas, when it comes to retail dollars spent. And it’s even crazier than Christmas, because the whole process is guided by irritable children, who really don’t want to be there because it means that their vacation is ending.

Anyway, we were in and out of there as quickly as possible. It’s all just too much, for those of us who have no children. If I had witnessed one more extravagant brand-name purchase by a 10-year-old, or one more screaming match in the middle of a store, that would have been it for me, I think.

Big News!

My baby sister is engaged! Aidan proposed to her on her birthday, and she’s very happy. They’re not making immediate wedding plans, although they’re thinking that they will have a small event. We saw both of them yesterday, along with the rest of my family, so that was great.

We also got to visit with Ted, Laurie, and James in Birch Bay on Saturday. James is doing really well at EA, and Ted and Laurie had a great trip to the interior, where they got to see Christy. So, all is well on the family front.

Happy Birthday Gretchen!

Today is my little sister’s birthday. She’s not so little anymore, although I will spare us both by concealing her age. 😉

Anyways, here’s to Gretchen!

Amber and Gretchen

Indoor Cat

Much to her chagrin, Dorothy is an indoor cat. She has never really been outside, but she would love the opportunity. The cat spends much of her day pressing her nose up towards open windows, sniffing wistfully through the blinds and window screens.

Dorothy’s most ardent protests at her indoor cat state come when I am outside working in the garden. She will throw herself bodily against windows, mew plaintively, and then collapse to the ground dramatically.

Sometimes I feel guilty about all of this, since the cat would clearly love to roam freely. But then I remind myself that Dorothy lacks good sense, as far as cats go. I just couldn’t bear to lose her, and I don’t trust her to keep body and soul together. Still, she’s constantly plotting her escape, and she’s convinced that one day, she’ll make it.

Olympics

So, Jon and I spent much of this weekend watching the Olympics. We thought that the opening ceremonies were sort of so-so, although I really liked the historical tableau parade. The torch-lighting wasn’t all that impressive, though, compared to other Olympics. Also, as a non-Greek, the order of the countries was puzzling, to say the least.

I have to be honest, I’m really not a sports fan. However, between the well-edited features and the commentators walking you through every little thing, I find the Olympic coverage to be extremely accessible. I find myself watching sports that I would never seek out otherwise, like softball and cycling. I guess that the Olympics are just packaged much better for the non-fan.

My favourite event, so far, is the swimming. Races are short and engaging, which is perfect for me. You don’t really need to understand anything, like in gymnastics or diving. A bunch of people just dive in and go for it, and a few minutes later someone gets to the wall first. I think that I also like the track events, for many of the same reasons.

Moneyball

One of the best books on sports I have ever read is Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. Baseball is supposed to be the sport where money talks the loudest. The New York Yankees spend the budget of some small countries in order to win. For years, the complaint about baseball is the small market teams are not able to compete because of the large economic disparities. This has generally been the case, except for the unlikely success of the Oakland A’s. They have consistantly been a playoff team over the past number of years with a total player budget smaller than the annual salary of the Yankees third baseman. The thesis of the book tries to answer the question of how Oakland is able to be successful without the money of the larger clubs.

What follows is the fascinating story of A’s, and in particular their General Manager Billy Beane. He realized that he can’t compete with teams like the Red Sox and Yankees for high priced free agents. So instead, he realizes that baseball is a business that has huge inefficiencies in the way it traditionally evaluates talent. In particular, baseball likes to measure baseball players with statistics such as batting average and RBI’s. What many people, including Billy Beane realized is that such measures are woefully inadequate in determining how much a player affects whether their team wins or loses. Baseball is essentially an old-boys network that traditionally conducts business in a particular way. What the Oakland A’s did was turn that system upside-down within their own organization, and allowed new thinking and new ways of doing things to lead them to on-field success.

While Moneyball is essentially a book about baseball, the lessons contained within can be applied to any business or endevour in life. Unless we are open to looking at problems in new and creative ways, we will forever be repeating the same mistakes and reaping the same results. A fascinating story, and an excellent book.

moneyball.jpg

Mystery Solved

So, Dorothy is back to her old self, now. Last night at about 9:00 I noticed her sniffing and attempting to leap through the blinds at the window of doom. I tried to grab her, but she fought me and wouldn’t let go. She was just going crazy.

I grabbed the cat with one hand, and pulled up the blind with the other. Underneath our front window, a neighbour cat was sitting very primly. Dorothy was ready to take this cat on, clawing and sniffing and clawing and sniffing. So, I scared the tresspasser away and closed the windows.

I’m fairly certain that this neighbour cat must have inspired the dishevelled blinds, pee on the windowsill, and utter terror of Tuesday night. I’m still not clear how, because Dorothy did not seem at all afraid, and the two cats were always separated by a window screen. I can only guess that feline displays of bravado caused the crisis.

See, this is why I don’t let Dorothy outside. She has no manners, and she would get herself hurt very quickly. She’s not so tough, after all, and she’s not so big, either. But, she thinks that she is, and will take all comers.

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